In spring 2022 Turner Contemporary presents the first major solo exhibition by British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong, which will tour MK Gallery, Milton Keynes and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle.
The exhibition will include the newly commissioned feature-length film Wayfinder, which follows a young girl’s journey across England. Achiampong has also curated a display of paintings by JMW Turner and collaborated with Turner Contemporary to create a gaming room.
Larry Achiampong (born 1984, London) works in film, sculpture, installation, sound, collage, music and performance. Drawing on popular culture and his communal and personal heritage, his work explores post-colonial and post-digital identity and the deeply entrenched inequalities in contemporary society.
Wayfinder (2022) is Achiampong’s most ambitious film to date. Set in a pandemic, it follows the Wanderer, a young girl played by Perside Rodrigues, on an intrepid journey across England. Travelling from North to South, she passes through different regions, towns and landscapes, encountering people, stories and situations on her way. Across six chapters, including ‘The North’, ‘The Big Smoke’ and ‘The Kingdom of the East’, this epic film builds a dialogue about class and economic exclusion, belonging and displacement, cultural heritage and the meaning of home.
The Wanderer acts as a witness to accounts, conversations, places and histories. Setting out from the ancient paths of Hadrian’s Wall, she explores many environments, from a housing estate in Wolverhampton to E. Pellicci Café in Bethnal Green, and the National Gallery deserted at night, eventually reaching the sea at Margate.
The film combines sweeping shots with poetic voice-over narratives, real ‘vox pop’ testimonies, field recordings and an original orchestral score composed by Achiampong.
Wayfinder will be shown within a sculptural installation comprising a giant map of the UK divided up into parts. Inspired by the floating UK weather map on This Morning, the map can be sat on and explored by visitors, echoing the cinematic journey of the Wanderer and the themes of the film.
The exhibition will also include the largest UK presentation of Achiampong’s Relic Traveller project (2017 – ongoing). This multi-disciplinary work envisages a pan-African alliance of travellers who explore landscapes of the near future, collecting testimonies of those who have been historically oppressed by colonialism, capitalism and globalisation. The installation will incorporate all five Relic films, Relic flags and a new series of life-size Relic Traveller figures (The Relic Travellers’ Alliance: Assembly 1 & 2, 2021).
Other works in film, sound and collage will also be included, such as Achiampong’s Glyth collages (2013 – ongoing). The faces of each black person in family photos have been replaced with cubist-like circles and red lips in these works, referencing experiences of racism growing up in East London, the Robertson’s Golliwog mascot still in circulation until 2002, and the Guy Fawkes mask from Alan Moore’s comic V For Vendetta.
JMW Turner, curated by Larry Achiampong
Throughout our programme we invite artists to explore the legacy of our namesake, JMW Turner, creating new routes for our audiences into both historic and contemporary art.
Alongside his exhibition, Achiampong has curated a display of paintings by JMW Turner. He has selected a group of oil paintings, watercolours, engravings and sketchbooks, predominantly from Turner’s British tours and including locations which feature in Wayfinder.
Creating a dialogue with Achiampong’s work, and Wayfinder in particular, this display explores place, belonging and visions of Britain; empire and slavery; industrialisation and class; the sublime, landscape and the sea. Achiampong has described his approach to curating this display as like creating a ‘mix tape’, weaving together aesthetic languages, wider histories and personal experiences.
The Gaming Room
As part of the exhibition, Turner Contemporary will be showcasing many of the video games that have influenced Achiampong’s work, examples include; Ico, Journey, Inside, Legend of Zelda and Ori and the Blind Forest. The Gaming Room will include playable consoles, a workshop area, a stage for talks and game soundtracks. The space will be free to access.
Working with BAFTA Young Game Designers (BAFTA YGD), The Prince’s Trust (The Prince’s Trust) and Into Games (Into Games) the gallery will offer game design workshops and talks for families and schools, to inspire people from every background to discover careers in the games industry.
Larry Achiampong says: “This project feels like a poignant moment for me, not just professionally and as a maker of films, but also personally. It has felt very important and necessary, especially at this point in time to be able to bring this range of subject matter and conversations to the table at what is increasingly becoming a contentious moment of our times.”
“I am so excited to share the expansive vision of this story which marks a new and exciting stage in my art practice. I never set out to create a film of this size, but due to the scope of ideas that evolved along the way, it increasingly became inevitable that this would become my first feature film.”
Wayfinder: Larry Achiampong has been organised by Turner Contemporary with MK Gallery and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.
Wayfinder has been commissioned by Turner Contemporary with MK Gallery and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.
Art on the Underground
In April this year, Art on the Underground launches a major new permanent commission by Larry Achiampong for Westminster Underground station titled PAN AFRICAN FLAG FOR THE RELIC TRAVELLERS’ ALLIANCE (UNION). Using bold Pan African colours – green, black, red and yellow-gold – Achiampong re-imagines the iconic London Underground roundel logo above the main entrance to the station. Linked artworks are featured on posters and on the cover of the 35th pocket Tube Map, printed in an edition of two million.